Notes from Fuel poverty and community action meeting

 

Summary: The meeting heard from current examples of projects tackling fuel poverty (Easton, Future Fit and WISH) and received brief updates from Bristol City Council and the University of Bristol research project. Discussion focussed around how to make use of and engage with the forthcoming Green Deal and local Bristol City Council energy projects.

The meeting concluded that:
(a) the network should explore ways to collectively engage with the Green Deal
(b) a Bristol wide community energy strategy should be developed to be launched by Bristol Big Green Week 2013.

The meeting was kindly hosted by Re:work ltd, No.8 Filwood Broadway, BS4 1JN on 28th November 2012.

 

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Introduction

Our host, Iris Eiting kicked off the meeting with a brief introduction to the notion of fuel poverty and the government’s current definition… ‘households which spend more than 10 % of their disposable income on their energy bills’. For many people in Bristol this means stark choices when they don’t have enough money to pay the bills.

Green Deal and ECO

Whilst many people broadly understood the principles behind the Green Deal few people had a clear idea of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). ECO means the energy companies have to hit separate targets for carbon reduction and fuel bill savings in homes by paying for improvements that have been Green Deal accredited. Eligibility for ECO support depends on where you live, your income level and whether you receive benefits.

NB: DECC’s guide to ECO can be found here

It was suggested that there are four main roles that groups could take under the Green deal to help make energy efficiency improvements in their area: (1) Official Green Deal Assessors, (2) Impartial (i.e. not Green Deal) Energy Advisors, (3) Green Deal Installers, (4) Green Deal Advice Organisations.

NB: There is more detail on these roles in a short report by the University of Bristol and CSE on the network website.

 

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Examples of existing projects tackling fuel poverty:

1. Easton Energy Group – Solid wall insulations

Since the summer Easton Energy Group (EEG) have been working with Sustain to deliver free energy efficiency improvements (solid wall, cavity wall, loft and boiler upgrades) to local residents. Sustain works on behalf of EdF in order to carry out the CERT obligations of the energy company. So far 30 households have signed up but the project is being delayed on the side of Sustain. Principal issues have focussed around the physical conditions of the housing stock, planning permission and rising costs. EEG have had to cut back on community engagement in order not to create expectations that cannot be filled.

2. Future Fitpage1image25328

Through LEAF (funding from the Department for Energy and Climate Change) Future Fit surveyed 100 homes. 83 households went on to have basic energy saving measures installed by local builders. The project experience emphasised many improvements can be put in at low cost and with little time, that can make a big difference. Basic changes and improving people’s understanding of energy use are generally cheaper than and may have greater impact than proposed measures under the Green Deal – e.g. how to use home heating systems, basic draft proofing. Iris emphasised that there is a lot of work to be done to pave the way for the Green Deal, mainly around social learning.

3. CSE/Care and Repair- Warmer Improved Somerset Homes (WISH)

WISH is a project run by CSE and Somerset Care and Repair with funding from The Nationwide Foundation. The project targets over 50‘s, has been running for three years and comprises two Somerset based case workers undertaking home visits, with training, event support, phone advice and co-ordinationfrom CSE. 1600 people have been given face to face advice and 800 have had home visits. The project shows that to address fuel poverty, improving energy efficiency of homes, income levels and energy understanding need to go hand in hand. Often home improvements alongside, tailored advice and 1:1 support from a trusted individual get the best results. Questions were raised about how this can be financed without grants given the current fuel poverty support schemes and programmes.

 

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Other updates:

A). News from Bristol City Council
Bristol Home Energy Upgrade scheme: Full launch of the scheme to take place on Monday 3rd December…. full funding and subsidies for external and internal wall insulation, boiler upgrades and heating controls.

ELENA:

  • Green Deal Go Early project (solid wall and heating upgrades): The scheme is likely to be launched next week. Press release will be sent to the Bristol Energy Network and further discussions to be held once some of the details have been clarified with DECC.

  • Solid Wall/heating upgrades on BCC Council Housing stock: Building surveys
    and feasibility study on boiler replacements commissioned, procurement process for £ 32m solid wall and £ 10m heating project to be started before Christmas

  • District energy: Review of 6 major sites continued, feasibility study commissioned for city centre scheme involving the University of Bristol, Bristol City Council and the National Health Service.

  • Public sector retrofit: Major sites across the city identified and earmarked for trial of Energy Performance Contracting as per the London Re-Fit model

  • Marieke and or Jeremy will attend the next meeting to talk about ELENA and there is a possibility of organising an update on the project sooner

    NB: The University of Bristol have produced a short guide to how groups can engage with the council in both these projects: 

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  • B). University of Bristol – Maintaining Momentum in Bristol Community energy

The project has been exploring analogies between the experience of housing associations from the 1970’s onwards and the present community energy sector. The research suggests that early success of group engagement with communities can be a solid basis for Green Deal and pre-Green Deal activities but in order to catalyse on this, groups and wider networks need to consider how potential roles are developed in the future. It suggests that key questions evolve around assets and resources.

NB: The full report can be found on the here

 

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Discussion:

Iris suggested that for re:work what they would really like to see two things developing from this meeting: (a) groups coming together to collectively buy Green Deal assessor accreditation from one of the large providers. (b) to create mass through collectively pooling knowledge and group’s local embedded capacity to effectively sell group position to Green Deal providers as being invaluable for rolling out GD.

Further suggestions for engaging with the Green Deal included:
creating a network of assessors,
creating a consortium, where there exists a lead partner who effectively project manages groups

underneath and provides a coherent united face to engaging with external partners. Groups within the consortium are the ones that undertake the work.

It was suggested that there are multiple groups which could be in a position to become an umbrella for community action under the Green Deal.

Quick hands-up poll:
1. Who would like to see the network developed? = strong show of hands
2. Who would be willing to participate in the creation of a community energy strategy for Bristol? = another strong show of hands.

 

Actions: BEN will set up a doodle poll for a light and initial meeting (in a pub) on how to form a Bristol wide community energy strategy to take some of these ideas forwards, ideally to happen before Christmas, in order to be launched by Bristol Big Green Week 2013.

Next BEN meeting: 31st January 2013, Venue to be confirmed.
Results and discussion of the University of Bristol’s
Maintaining Momentum in Bristol Community Energy research project and a closer look at the impact of insulation materials on human and building health.
 

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!